A Perfect Night for a Hike

It was the perfect night to go hiking. The venue, the weather, the company, and a whole lot more.

My friend, Rochelle, also a teacher, took a class this past week called Teaching Environmental Science Naturally, put on by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (formerly Division of Wildlife). I ran into her Friday at the pool and she was telling me all about the activities and what she had learned. She mentioned that Colorado Parks and Wildlife was going to start a bat study. They wanted to find out how many species of bats lived on the Monument.

“Oh, you’ll probably want to know this. It’s a great time to go night hiking in No Thoroughfare Canyon. Our instructors said the frogs and toads are going crazy up there right about the time it gets dark.”

“Um, yeah! We should go tonight!” I said. “Or tomorrow. Whatever works for you.”

Rochelle couldn’t go either night because she was going out-of-town. So I asked Jim and he agreed.

We grabbed some Del Taco on the way and threw it in his backpack and started hiking about 7:30. The prickly pear blooms were incredible, sporting hues I’d never seen before, especially the orange sherbet shade.

prickly pear bloom

I gazed at the canyon walls, the last of the sunshine illuminating and highlighting their tremendous height, amazed as always at the splendor of the red canyons in the Monument. And the greens. So much variety, so rich in color and life following a fairly wet spring.

no thoroughfare canyon

After about a mile we came upon the first pool created by run off. And at the first pool were two guys, wearing waders, and setting up nets.

“Hey, what are you doing?” asked Jim, in a friendly voice.

“Well, we’re going to try to catch some bats,” said the shorter of the two men, who we later found out was Dan.

“Oh, is this for the bat study?” I asked, hardly believing how lucky we were that the study Rochelle mentioned was starting tonight and happening right here, right where we happened to be.

Dan looked at me at funny. “Yes. Yes, it is.” He went on to explain how the nets worked, wanting us to know that there would be no harm to the animals.

“And you’re trying to find out how many bat species are up here on the Monument, is that right?” I asked.

“Uh, okay,” he said, cocking his head and squinting his eyes at me, “how do you know all this?”

I laughed and told him that I was a teacher and that I had a teacher friend who, not more than three hours ago, had told me about her class and what she had learned.

“Oh yeah, I spoke to that class,” he said. I noticed he was wearing a Colorado Parks and Wildlife t-shirt.

Dan and Jake

Dan and Jake were more than willing to tell us about their work in general and this study in particular. They explained what all they’d be looking for if they caught any bats and what type of information they’d record. I asked if it would be okay if we watched, if it was okay that we were in the area tonight.

“It shouldn’t be a problem. We don’t mind. You’ll just need to keep your headlamps off most of the time so the bats will come in. They usually come here to drink right around dusk.”

Jim and I went up the trail, above the first pool, and found a nice spot to have our Del Taco dinner.

del taco dinner

The moon, a 5/8 moon, made its appearance as the sun exited the scene. Right as it was getting dark, we made our way back to the first pool, the loud machine gun sounding call of the Canyon Tree Frog (it doesn’t live in trees but it has feet like most tree frogs do) and the screaming of the Woodhouse Toads ricocheting off the rocks.

moon rising

As the light extinguished, I kept my eyes on the trail. I was surprised when a frog (or perhaps a toad, they do look similar) crossed the path right in front of me and then scooted into the safety of the grass.


By the time we got back to the first pool, the guys had already captured several bats. They showed them to us beneath their headlamps. They were tiny, their furry bodies no bigger than a juvenile mouse. But then Dan gently stretched out the wings of one and we could see that the wingspan was nearly ten inches.


We observed their sharp teeth set into their tiny heads and got to touch their paper-thin wings. I tried to get my iPhone camera to cooperate, but it had trouble focusing and deciding whether to use its flash or rely on the ever-changing light of the four headlamps leaning in and lighting up the subject.

Dan and Jake shared more of their knowledge. These bats were all myotis bats, the same bats that dart about in town shortly after the sun goes down. They know of eight species of myotis bats on the Monument and about eight other species as well. Then, we thanked them and let them get back to work.

The moon was almost bright enough to light the way for us, but we didn’t want to stumble so we turned our headlights on and took the short hike back.

“What a magical evening this has been,” Jim said, walking slowly, not really wanting it to end. “Thanks for getting me out.”

“Yeah, magical is right. The hike alone would have been wonderful. Add in evening light and then an early rising moon. Perfect weather. No bugs. Our yummy Del Taco picnic. Background music of frogs and toads. And then the cherry on top–running into  the bat study and getting to see that work firsthand. Pretty much a perfect night for a hike.”


It’s a Major Award

Major AwardToday I ran a relay marathon; that is, my partner ran the first half and I ran the second half. That’s how you do a marathon when you really are in no shape to do a marathon. I’m not going to go into all the details (but I will go into the more interesting ones) because that’s not the point of this post. The point is [SPOIL ALERT]  I got A MAJOR AWARD.

I know what you’re thinking. I just wrote a couple of blogs about the “I’m not a real runner” quote (https://randeebergen.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/im-not-a-real-runner/ and https://randeebergen.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/real-runners-are-just-that/) and, now, here I am, just a few weeks later, getting A MAJOR AWARD.

The Rimrock Marathon

This event took place in my backyard, up and over the Colorado National Monument. If you are ever passing through the western OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAside of Colorado, you absolutely must take a short detour off I-70 to enjoy this scenic drive. I have run across the Monument a few times, road biked across it, and, of course, driven it, many times, but still, I had to stop and take photos along the way today.

My relay partner, Butch, who recently turned 60, offered to do the first leg of the race. I’ve run this on my own twice, the whole marathon, so I know what the first leg entails–getting bussed to the start, standing around in the cold for an hour, and then, then, four miles of uphill switchbacks followed by another seven or eight of rolling hills. Luckily, the scenery is out of this world.

All of us second-leggers were bussed to the approximate middle of the top of the Colorado National Monument, where we hung out until our partners arrived, pooped and ready to hand over the baton. It was an unseasonably warm November day so we could be out of the bus and watching all the marathoners go by as well as be on the lookout for our relay partners.

Butch Crotchety and the Slowpoke Kid

I waited about two hours before Butch showed up. During that time I drank a (second) Diet Coke, had a peanut butter and honey sandwich and a banana, and made a few trips to the bushes. I hung out with some of my running friends and got to know most of the others doing the downhill leg. And, I cheered for everyone going by. I also got amped up. I’d been awake since 5:00 a.m. and I didn’t start running until 10:25.

My leg of the relay was downhill. Serious downhill. Painful downhill. After six miles of rolling road, I started in on the four miles of steep switchbacks into the valley below. You’re supposed to train for this kind of running, pounding down steep pavement. I didn’t. I didn’t hurt too badly during it–just some localized knee pain that melted away when I hit the last three flat miles–but I’m sure I’ll feel it over the next few days.

Now, you might think that, since I was fresh, I passed a few marathoners along the way, but no. Several marathoners passed me. They were running a faster pace on the full 26.2 miles than I was running on my 14 downhill miles. I know, surprise, surprise.

As I approached the finish, there was Butch, just as I was there as he completed his half. He ran in with me, which was a good thing, 1460112_562664847143970_1716664291_nbecause I was barely moving along at that point. We went immediately to the food and beer because I was starving and had been for the last couple of miles. I got a turkey sandwich, chips, cookies, and hot soup and spread it all out on the table before me. Then I stared at it. For twenty minutes. It is impossible to eat immediately upon finishing a long run like that.

Finally, Butch and I could eat. We chowed down and gained back some strength and visited with others, oblivious that the awards were happening a short ways away.

The Award

Then, one of our local guys ran over and yelled, “Hey, you guys are getting an award. Come on!”

“What?” Of course, I thought it was a joke. But he was grabbing my arm and nudging us along.

It occurred to me, then, that we might be getting an award for the best team name–Butch Crotchety and the Slowpoke Kid.

The announcers were obviously waiting for us to arrive at the awards area. We went up and they repeated what I supposed they had 581263_10151803952186374_86010416_nsaid when we were way out of earshot. “Second place masters co-ed relay!”

Confusion, shock, and elation all on my part. “I’ve never won an award before!” I shouted to the awards people, my partner, the crowd.

“Here, take it,” said Butch, handing me the rock monolith-shaped plaque.

“You don’t want it?”

“Well, if you’ve never won an award before, you darn well better take it. I have plenty of awards.”


Anyone over the age of 40 is in “Masters” in running, but I’m not sure where that term came from or what exactly it means. You might think that the Masters group is full of old, slow people, but that is most definitely not the case. Some of the fastest runners are Masters and overall winners can easily be in the Masters age group. I always wonder if it means that, since you’re 40, surely you’ve mastered running by now. I, however, didn’t start running until I was 42.

But here’s something I may have mastered–how I can get an award, or at least have a better shot at getting one. Enter an event with a relay. Get a partner. The partner doesn’t need to be Speedy Gonzalez; “it” just needs to be a “he” and he needs to be an old guy (you know, OVER 40). Then, make sure all of my fast women friends partner up with other women, so they won’t be messing up my chances in the co-ed division.

Really, I think it must be that we were both Masters and that we were a male/female team to have gotten A MAJOR AWARD.

Or maybe, maybe, it’s because we were super fast relay marathoners who deserved it. [SPOIL ALERT] Not.

My Grand Backyard

I live in the Grand Valley, a wide expanse of western Colorado desert bordered by the canyons and red rock monoliths of the Colorado National Monument to the south; the Grand Mesa (largest mesa in the world), with an elevation of 11,000 feet to the east; and, to the north, the 200 mile long Bookcliff Range. And, as if that weren’t enough, the Colorado River carves a path through this valley on its way to Utah and beyond.

Each of these gems–the desert, the Monument, the Mesa, the river–is a unique portion of my vast backyard into which I can step and lose myself at any time. Early mornings, trail running in the dark. Blazing hot days tempered by a float down the river. Strenuous climbs, with breathtaking views of the valley below. Time in the snowy desert on a sunny winter afternoon. And, like this past weekend, a hike to another world, though it is right there, right out there in my backyard.


What’s in your backyard?